(Short reflection for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time)
This week 11,000 Icelanders opened their homes to refugees when their government only had space for 50. Today the Pope urges every parish in Europe to take in one refugee family. The faces and bodies we saw in media images this week have moved many to toss aside fear and be open. Ephphatha!
Fear is an emotion but our bodies react. We might see the reaction immediately, or later in the effects of prolonged stress. The Father sent us the Son in the flesh so that through the body we could return to God in the spirit. Similarly, the miracles of Jesus often act upon the body. Meager rations feed a multitude, the lame are healed, and even the dead are returned to life! The Messiah came not only to raise the mind to lofty thoughts but to reach us in our everyday reality, right down to the very body we inhabit as we go about our lives.
Whether we fear for ourselves – lay-offs, rejection, and failure – or fear for others – migrants, victims of human trafficking, casualties of war, natural disasters, and illness – fear often causes us to close in upon ourselves as a means of self-protection. The prophet Isaiah gives us different advice: “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.” With our eyes scrunched closed we are blind to the presence of God around us. With our ears blocked we fail to hear words of consolation. With our arms wrapped tightly around our bodies we are unable to spring into action and we need God to release the voice with which we will bring healing and justice into the world.
In Decapolis Jesus used his body to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah. To release a man, both deaf and unable to speak, from his bonds, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears, then spat and touched his tongue! Jesus continues to fulfil the prophecy today, freeing us also in a bodily way. The Eucharist is our invitation to receive the miracle of Jesus’ own Body and Blood so that we can be released from all that we fear.